Coping with COVID

Coping with COVID

As Arkansas and other states reach new COVID-19 hospitalization peaks, many especially susceptible people struggle with worsening substance abuse problems. Widespread shutdowns and social distancing practices have made it difficult for people seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders to find help. Many groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs have had to go to virtual meetings, which are not as useful for some people. Additionally, other stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including unemployment, homelessness and social isolation have led to increased anxiety among those in recovery, causing many to relapse.

The Recovery Village® recently surveyed past-month drug and alcohol use to understand better how the pandemic is currently affecting substance use in the United States.

Results of The Recovery Village® Survey

The survey asked 1,000 American adults (ages 18 and older) about their use of drugs and alcohol in the past month. Some questions asked respondents to select each option that applied so that the total percentage will be greater than one hundred in a few instances. The survey respondents most commonly used:

  • Alcohol (88%)
  • Marijuana (37%)
  • Prescription opioids (15%)
  • Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (11%)
  • Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall (10%)
  • Cocaine (9%)

Additionally, many respondents displayed higher rates of drug and alcohol use. Of the respondents:

  • 55% reported an increase in past-month alcohol consumption, with 18% reporting a significant increase
  • 36% reported an increase in illicit drug use

The participants were asked why they were triggered to use substances within the last month. Of the respondents:

  • 53% were trying to cope with stress
  • 39% were trying to relieve boredom
  • 32% were trying to cope with mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression

Despite these stressors, there is hope for those with substance use disorders. Medical detoxification and acute rehabilitation are crucial to recovery. While acute care may be appropriate for some, sub-acute options like partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programming, or traditional outpatient may benefit others.

John Schay is the Medical Director of Substance Use Treatment, Adults, & Patriot Support Program for The BridgeWay Hospital, a psychiatric facility for children, adolescents, and adults in North Little Rock. Dr. Schay received his medical degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2005 and completed his psychiatry residency at the UAMS in 2009 when he also joined The BridgeWay. He is board-certified in Psychiatry as well as Addiction Medicine by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.